Aug. 2000 - CMJ: A New Age: Queens Of The Stone Age Ditch Stoner Thud for Pop Hooks
by Jon Regardie
When You hail from the arid, dusty part of California known as Palm Desert, where there is little civilization and plenty of pummeling heat, the blistering climate burrows into your soul. If your a member of Queens Of The Stone Age, it escapes through your fingertips in two-ton riffs. "There is nothing to do in the desert, that is why everyone is tweaked," says Queens bassist and occasional vocalist Nick Oliveri about his native land. "We would just play in the garage. There was nothing going on so we had to create something."

Most recently, Oliveri and vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme have created Rated R (Interscope), an unexpectedly poppy sophmore effort from folks known for forging music's answer to iron ore. While elements of the disc echo the dense Zeppelin/Sabbath/Soundgarden strains that propelled the groups eponymous '98 release, the Queens' current direction favors melody over precision. Pop hooks permeate the landscape, wry humor peaks over the horizon and the track "Quick And To The Pointless" even offers kitschy hand claps and female "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" backing vocals. Such stylistic changes risk baffling Queens fans, as well as followers of Oliveri and Homme's previous outfit, the hard driving Kyuss.

"When we started, I wanted to play in a band that could play anything and not be obligated to some genre--Can meets the Stooges meets Tom Waits-something that would take five or six band to describe," says Homme. "With the first record the intent was to lose some people and gain other people, and I got a volley of everything. I heard an equal amount of 'You suck' and 'Thank you, I'm into it."

"With Rated R, the only plan was 'Let's not make the last record again,'" explains Oliveri. "Let's make a new one with some similarities but keep it new.' There are so many band who play heavy who if you heard one song, you have heard them all."

One such limited unit was their own stoner thud avatar Kyuss, which dissolved in 1995 after more than five years and four albums. Following the split, Homme joined Seattle's Screaming Trees (whose Mark Lanegan contributed vocals to Rated R) and Oliveri played with stage-wrecking hellions The Dwarves. In 1997, the two reunited with ex-Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez (who is replaced alternately by Gene Troutman and Nicky Lucero on the new record) and Homme assumed vocal duties. The name Queens Of The Stone Age came from a joke by producer Chris Goss, and Homme and Oliveri admit satisfaction that the homoerotic might dissuade some hard-rock aficionados.

The Queens seem to enjoy challenging their fans, which is an intriguing if not a career-boosting tactic. Case in point is the album's lead track, a sarcastic and easily misinterpreted bitch-slap to the "stoner rock" label the band has been saddled with. Titled "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," the lyrics consist entirely of "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. C-c-c-c-cocaine."

If anything, Rated R is "stoner pop," and though songs like "Better Living Through Chemistry" do carry a Druggy, zone-out twinge, that represents only one the schizophrenic album's many facets. "This is the most anti-drug record I have ever been involved with," avers Homme. "It has songs where the humor is dark, where it jabs at stuff more than holding it above our shoulders. We kept joking in the studio, 'The Grammy for comedy record of the year goes to…'"


And from the CD Blurb

Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, former frontman of Kyuss, says the group's demise brought a much needed change. "I love Kyuss, but we had this weird philosophy," he says. "We painted this beautiful room, but by the time it started to end, we were all standing in the corner of the white spot." The Queens combine heavy guitars, simple drum patterns and trance-inducing repetitiveness to create what Homme calls "robot-rock" "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret" appears on the bands new full-length, Rated R (Interscope). (See Feature p. 28, Metal p. 77, Review p.69)

issue no. 84

Thanks to Jay Kloosterman for typing this up!

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